The woke takeover of Hollywood

(Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)

Bari Weiss’ Substack has published a piece today called “Hollywood’s New Rules” which takes a look at the woke takeover of the industry in the past few years. The co-authors of the piece admit that Hollywood has always been progressive but they say something new started happening circa 2015 when #OscarsSoWhite became a trending hashtag. And a few years later the #MeToo movement had plenty of Hollywood ramifications.

Then came George Floyd, and, in the summer of 2020, everything that had been happening in slow motion started to happen much faster…

So, in September 2020, the Academy launched its Representation and Inclusion Standards Entry platform (or RAISE). For a movie to qualify for Best Picture, producers not only had to register detailed personal information about everyone involved in the making of that movie, but the movie had to meet two of the Academy’s four diversity standards—touching on everything from on-screen representation to creative leadership…

Meanwhile, CBS mandated that writers’ rooms be at least 40 percent black, indigenous and people of color (or BIPOC) for the 2021-2022 broadcast season and 50 percent for the 2022-2023 season. ABC Entertainment issued a detailed series of “inclusion standards.” (“I guarantee you every studio has something like that,” a longtime writer and director said.)

According to one writer working in the industry, the only way to survive is to out-woke the woke. Doing anything else puts your career at risk:

“Best way to defend yourself against the woke is to out-woke everyone, including the woke,” one writer said. Suddenly, every conversation with every agent or head of content started with: Is anyone BIPOC attached to this?…

“Everyone has gone so underground with their true feelings about things,” said Mike White, the writer and director behind the hit HBO comedy-drama “The White Lotus.” “If you voice things in a certain way it can really have negative repercussions for you, and people can presume that you could be racist, or you could be seen as misogynist.”

The irony is that this all sounds like a very funny premise for a show. Indeed there is a show called “Woke” which initially intended to poke fun at some of these things but according to the authors the edge got watered down thanks to “sanctimonious” notes from the producers who didn’t want anyone but white men to be the butt of the show’s jokes.

A showrunner let the authors look through some of his emails (he wouldn’t forward them for fear of them being spread around). It seemed to confirm that Hollywood’s hiring practices are now frequently about checking the correct diversity boxes.

Sitting in his office, in a casita behind his house and next to the pool, we scrolled through the emails on his laptop:

“This one a dead end — they are going to limit search to women and bipoc candidates”

“How tied to hiring him are you? There are some internally that don’t like the idea of hiring a white guy. I wish I had a better way to frame it. Hate this shit.”

“Studio now telling us this job must go to a female / bipoc writer. Sorry — it sucks”

Does it matter if Hollywood goes all in on wokeness? According to some showrunners interviewed for the piece, the result is a room full of writers who may or may not decide to call out anyone who expresses themselves improperly. And that means everyone is a bit more on edge about what they say, a bit less likely to take a risk with a crazy idea for fear someone will decide it’s offensive. Wokeness might be a plus in some ways for dramatic shows looking for more drama and conflict in their stories but for comedies it must be a nightmare. Wokeness is likely to do to sitcoms what it has already done for late night shows and comics like Dave Chappelle. If “That’s not funny!” is your collective motto, it’s going to be hard to make people laugh.

One director told the authors of the piece that the real danger was the audience would gradually tune out the heavily ideological messages and the shows along with them. “They begin to see us as a community twisting ourselves into a pretzel to make every movie as woke as possible, every relationship mixed racially, every character sexually fluid, and they decide that we are telling stories set in a fantasyland instead of a world they know and live in,” he said.